It’s 2004 and I’m a complete hype whore, and what I fall to this time...A little game
called Halo 2. Microsoft’s FlagShip Title for their Xbox gaming console. It’s a FPS. “F” is
for First. “P” is for Person. “S” is for shooter. Think of an FPS as a genre which for most
of the game in this you play from the perspective of the character you control seeing
almost everything through said characters eyes, litterly. More on that last sentence in a bit.
It’s worth noting that I never liked the FPS genre I actually quit playing the original Halo
because I lost interest saying, “that the control was to awkward and I could never get a
sense of direction.” Now fast forward to Halo 2 which is arguably more polished then it’s
predecessor (sorry Halo 1 fans who regularly still play the game six years later!) and all of
a sudden I was moving along pretty well. Before I knew it duel wielding with a weapon in
both hands felt as if I just put on glasses for the first time and saw what I’d been missing in
the genre. However, the biggest factor was not the story, the graphics, nor the game play.
It was the point when I realized that I was on the edge of my seat when the game started
to play on straight up horror tactics. When coupled with a five speaker surround sound
system only hearing the pitta pater of feat from and the monstrous tiger growl of an enemy
before seeing what I had to shoot began to create genuine tension in my neck and
shoulders and a sense of being on edge that I didn’t know was possible in video games.
With all due respect to games in the horror genre such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, what
I touched on earlier in this article about the games being played mostly through the main
characters eyes literally creates a sense of immersion that no other story telling method
can do. First person has been done in film and other visual mediums, but when you’re in
control from that perspective and all hell is breaking loose, when done well it is second to
none in terms of putting you right smack dad in the middle of the action. Cliche’ aside
when the story gives you enough reason to care, the music sets the mood, and the
characters are creepy enough you will have a reaction to it.
It’s nothing new. Not if you’ve watched a movie in the last one hundred years. Not even
to video games going back to Sega Genesis days Slaughter House and later FPS like Doom
and System Shock. Movies have had time to hone in techniques used to scare audiences
but the very same technics a loud noise here and a jump their can be applied effectively for
a “cheap” scare in games. Both mediums share that but it’s also has to be noted that the
sophistication of the audience keeps going up and never goes down. The “cheap” scares
can only take you so far. There almost has to be something going on beneath the surface
this days to hold your attention long enough in each medium. Nice examples to point to at
doing a good job at this are 28 Weeks Later and BioShock. Neither one re-invented the
wheel but they did make the wheel ride a lot better.
It’s the bottom line at the end of the day is that these are two different mediums, and it
has that old comparing apples to oranges thing. It is worth mentioning that there is a
difference between horror movie fans who’ll seek out horror stories in the movies tav dvd’s
etc... and the horror story fans who’ll sit around a camp fire to get their horror stories. It
separates the the horror story lover from the horror movie lover. From first hand
knowledge I personally told anyone remotely interested in horror about 30 Days of Night
from writer Steve Niles when it came out as a three part comic a few years back, fast
forward to it being a Hollywood movie starring Josh Hartnett and now it’s story worth
checking out by those same people. Absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. As long as
you have somewhere to get your “scares” from you have nothing to fear.